A few days ago, an article examining the Tennessee Titans’ 2019-20 playoff odds would have seemed as useful as giving a Rubik’s Cube to a blind guy. The team was 4-5, fresh off a loss at Carolina, and a decided underdog against the Chiefs in Patrick Mahomes’ return to action. A loss this past Sunday in this game they were expected to lose, and Titans fans could pretty much turn their attention to the 2020 draft.
But with a little help from a field goal attempt that went so wrong it ended with an intentional grounding call, the Titans upset the Chiefs, 35-32, and now they go into their “bye” at .500 and legitimately in the thick of the AFC playoff race.
On the plus side, quarterback Marcus Mariota appears to have been a major part of the problem and the Titans are now 3-1 since Ryan Tannehill took over as the starter. On the minus side, the boys in Titans blue face the third-toughest remaining schedule in the NFL.
So what are their chances of coming back from a 2-4 start to earn a postseason berth? And more to the point, with legal online sports betting coming to Tennessee in the next few months, what do the sportsbooks say their odds are?
Division up for grabs
Nobody would call the AFC South the best division in the football, but it is by far the tightest. A mere two games separate first place from last place, with the Houston Texans on top at 6-3, the Indianapolis Colts a game out at 5-4, the Titans sitting at 5-5, and the Jacksonville Jaguars still lurking at 4-5. The Texans, not coincidentally, are the only team among the four that has had the good fortune to start the same QB every game.
Here’s how three major mobile sportsbooks that are legal in other states and might soon open up shop in the Volunteer State have the division priced:
There’s not a huge amount of variation from book to book (and it’s notable that the Jags have the exact same longshot odds at all three books). Needless to say, FanDuel would be the place to bet the Titans. But are you getting a good price? Do they have at least a 1-in-8 chance of winning the South?
The answer to that depends upon whether you believe they’re a legitimately good team with Tannehill and can win head-to-head with their division rivals. Four of the Titans’ final six games are in the division. Two of them are against Houston. They probably need to go at least 3-1 in those games. They probably need to go 2-0 against the Texans. If you think those goals are realistically achievable, +700 is a solid price.
Of course, winning the division isn’t the only way to get into the playoffs. The AFC lacks the depth of the NFC, where, if the season ended today, the second wild card team would be 7-3. In the AFC, a 5-4 team would grab a spot at this point. So the cutoff is likely going to be either 10-6 or 9-7. That means that if, say, the Titans split with Houston and fail to catch them for the division title, all hope is not lost if they win at least three of their other four games.
Here’s how the three mobile sportsbooks list Tennessee’s playoff props:
- FanDuel: Yes +390 / No -650
- DraftKings: Yes +340 / No -455
- FOX Bet: Yes +380 / No -650
It’s interesting how much smaller the margin is at DK than elsewhere. Certainly that’s the right book at which to bet the “no,” if you’re a Titans fan looking for an emotional hedge.
Shall we get carried away? Sure, why not, let’s get carried away!
The Titans’ odds to win the AFC are currently listed at +5000 at all three of the aforementioned sportsbooks. It’s a far-fetched scenario, surely, but try telling that to the guy who bet on the St. Louis Blues when they were at their nadir or anyone who backed the Washington Nationals during their early-season struggles.
And if you want to take it one step further, the Titans are +10000 to win it all at DraftKings, +12000 at FanDuel, and an almost-worth-doing-but-still-probably-not +125000 at FOX Bet.
One more fun futures longshot to consider: Derrick Henry is +2300 to win the rushing title at FanDuel (better than the +2000 at DK and much better than the +1300 at FOX Bet). The Titans RB is currently fifth in the league in rushing with 832 yards — 159 out of the lead. But because he hasn’t had a bye week yet, he’s only ninth in yards per game with 83.2 — 26.6 out of the lead.
How likely is he to leapfrog eight rushers, including Christian McCaffrey and Nick Chubb, who are both averaging more than 100 rushing yards per game? Even if you assume perfect health for Henry and injuries to a couple of the people ahead of him, it’s a reach.
But then again, Henry rushed for 188 yards against Kansas City on Sunday, and there may not be a single RB in the NFL more capable of ripping off a 90-yard TD run out of nowhere.
And, hey, if Henry has one or two 200-yard Sunday explosions in him, maybe that could carry the team to a few more crucial wins and some postseason football.
Photo by Christopher Hanewinckel / USA Today Sports